WEBER: Overtures to Der Freischütz, Oberon, Euryanthe (Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Antal Dorati, cond.). Overture to Abu Hassan . Invitation to the Dance (orch. Berlioz) (London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras, cond.).Symphony No. 1 in C (New Philharmonia Orch/Wilfried Boettcher, cond.). Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 73. Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E Flat, Op. 74 (Oskar Michallik, clarinet/Dresden State Orch/ Kurt Sanderling, cond.). Clarinet Quintet in B Flat, Op. 34 (Members of the Berlin Philharmonic Octet). Konzertstücke in F Minor (Nikita Magaloff, pianist/London Symphony Orch/Sir Colin Davis, cond.
PHILIPS DUO 462 868 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD) TT: 78:01 & 76:32 

This budget-priced twin-CD set offers splendid performances of some of Carl Maria von Weber's works, although hardly "The Best of Weber" as the cover proclaims. The focus here is on the clarinet, not only the two concertos but the Quintet in B Flat as well. Performances are on a high level, but this collection obviously represents what Philips had available in their catalog. None of the composer's solo piano music, no vocal music from the operas, which are represented by four overtures, three of which are welcome reissues: Antal Dorati's September 1959 stereo recordings with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Freischütz, Oberon and Euryanthe. These are vibrant performances previously issued only on LPs long out-of-print, and the early stereo recordings capture more of the Concertgebouw sound than most recordings since. Dorati's outstanding Dvorák Ninth, recorded at the same time as the overtures, was issued on CD five years ago in the Philips solo series (442 401), coupled with the same composer's Cello Concerto in a somewhat tepid performance by Heinrich Schiff with Sir Colin Davis conducting, recorded in 1980. The CD is deleted but it is worth seeking out just for the symphony.

The two clarinet concertos are expertly played by Oskar Michallik; presumably he is a member of the Dresden Orchestra - program notes with the new Philips Duo issue are limited, with no information on performers. The Quintet is dispatched with the polish one would expect from members of the Berlin Philharmonic. Boettcher leads a vivid performance of the Symphony No. 1, an unjustly neglected work, but several times during this there is a low-frequency bump that is more than a bit distracting. Nikita Magaloff's performance of Konzertstüke is equal to any. All in all, this is a pleasant collection of what it purports to be, and the price is right. But someone at Philips should have realized that Bernard Haitink does not conduct any of the recordings in this set; his name is listed on the cover.

R.E.B. (OCT. 2000)